Snark Snark
August 29, 2009 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Snark.
posted by Olli (54 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Surely this trenchant analysis will staunch the flow.

phrontist collapses in fit of ironic recursion
posted by phrontist at 6:37 AM on August 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


*Shrugs off the inevitable*
posted by tellurian at 6:45 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bumper sticker: ESCHEW SNARK
posted by Postroad at 6:50 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]




Shit Sandwich, with a side of fresh, leafy SNARK.
posted by dbiedny at 6:54 AM on August 29, 2009


Sigh. Here we go with more amateur Snark hunters. When will they learn to leave it to professionals.
posted by The Bellman at 6:58 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Snork.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:00 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Long winded rambling article about how people on the internet are assholes....GET HIS PULITZER READY!!!!!!
posted by GavinR at 7:01 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


This David Denby fellow must be incredibly easy to troll.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:02 AM on August 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


David Denby goes on the hunt for snark

I see what you did there.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 7:04 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I predict most, if not all of the rest of the comments will be positive.
posted by digsrus at 7:08 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Snark: Hard to define, but I know it when I see it.

That being the case, I don't feel the need to read a long and tedious article. Thank god
posted by Think_Long at 7:08 AM on August 29, 2009


Achtung, danger point.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:11 AM on August 29, 2009


Haven't we seen this article, by different authors and with somewhat different words, several times in the Blue before?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:16 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is this where we go to talk about Power Pack? Because I have a lot to say.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:16 AM on August 29, 2009


I do have to say, while Wonkette may have a point regarding the Ted Kennedy post Denby picks up on, they seem to be claiming that he got everything utterly incorrect about the Chelsea Clinton post, when the only thing I can see that he got wrong was saying the post's author was female, when it was in fact a male.

...and then Wonkette blow their own foot clean off with this, showing that they can outclass Denby any time of day when it comes to willful misintepretation.
posted by Dysk at 7:17 AM on August 29, 2009


tl;dr
posted by infini at 7:17 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


David Denby and his book have been discussed before. His thoughts on snark are nothing new. Not knocking the post, just noting that this isn't new territory for him.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:19 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


r;tl
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:20 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


...and then Wonkette blow their own foot clean off with this, showing that they can outclass Denby any time of day when it comes to willful misintepretation.

Hmm. Either you've totally missed the joke of that Comics Curmudgeon post, or your Metafilter comment about it was itself a triple-meta-ironic joke, in which case the joke is on me.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:21 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


game warden to the events rhino, 'willful misinterpretation' is pretty much the basis of snark, and Wonkette are the masters of it. I just think they panicked at being one-upped (ish) by Denby, and responded poorly, so I thought I'd bring up something more indicative of their usual quality.

...and yes, I was snarking with the foot-shooting. (Or trying, anyway).
posted by Dysk at 7:31 AM on August 29, 2009


Awwww, your mother wears army boots.
posted by pianomover at 7:32 AM on August 29, 2009


I try, but don't like Denby. And I keep wishing he'd get fired from his New Yorker gig because he's stinking up the joint.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:35 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]



Sorry David, I'll stop now.

posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:37 AM on August 29, 2009


He's f__ing insufferable, and that's not snark. It's an insult.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:51 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


He's a merchant banker, and that's not snark. It's an insult.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:03 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


In 1997, Denby published *Great Books,* his account of taking the courses in Columbia's "Core Curriculum" sequence as a middle-aged man. He waxes pedantically and inelegantly on the great moral lessons of the classics, and laments the decline of education in Western Snivelization. This book can be found alongside *The Closing of the American Mind* and *Cultural Literacy* on the bookshelves of many an annoyingly smug academic conservative, and many a right wing nag berating the "political correctness" of the modern American higher educational setting. As someone who's devoted a lot of energy to dismantling the Eurocentric anachronisms of the college curriculum, I've had Denby thrown in my face as proof that I am wrong and students really must read Herodotus and listen to Beethoven to understand the challenges of the global future or they will be miserably incomplete human beings.

Then in 2004, he published *American Sucker,* which details pretty much how his life fell apart after *Great Books* was published -- real estate scams, online stock trading, gambling, pornography addiction, the whole narcissistic schtick.

So much for the moral lessons of the classics.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:06 AM on August 29, 2009 [19 favorites]


Your classic snarker is neither proud of the substance of their message nor ashamed of it, but entirely indifferent to it. They care only about the joke. Anonymity lets you enjoy the clever words without having to worry about being taken to task for their meaning. That’s snark all over. It’s this emptiness — the essential glibness of snark — that Denby can’t seem to grasp. He wants snarkers to have motives, and they don’t. Hugo Rifkind
posted by netbros at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Now, if it was Anthony Lane writing about snark..
posted by everichon at 8:20 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I hate the dude's writing.

A little tomboy, Ellie (Elie Docter, Pete’s daughter), bursts into Carl’s world, and, in a rapid, wordless montage, we see their long life together—wedded bliss and also, painfully, the slow extinction of many hopes, including a desire that they, too, will have great adventures in South America

JEEZUS CHRIST, stop, using (every) type of, pause—available, to, you.
posted by fleacircus at 8:24 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


A little tomboy, Ellie (Elie Docter, Pete’s daughter), bursts into Carl’s world, and, in a rapid, wordless montage, we see their long life together—wedded bliss and also, painfully, the slow extinction of many hopes, including a desire that they, too, will have great adventures in South America

Jesus. I'm horrible for overusing parentheses (in all their forms), but this is painful even for me to read...
posted by Dysk at 8:29 AM on August 29, 2009


Metafilter: mean little toughs

It was worth it for that phrase alone!
posted by HuronBob at 8:50 AM on August 29, 2009


re: Brother Dysk
Denby really did fail to read the tone, intent, and any part of the humor of the Chelsea post. It was, like a many Wonkette posts, a stab at a noticeably trending media reaction to a piece of news. It was in no way a stab at Chelsea, the subject of the news in question. Newell's defense explains this. To anyone who read the Wonkette post in the moment when the straight media's coverage of Chelsea's speaking engagements had become a bit goofy, the satire was apparent. Reading it later might be more challenging, but even a passing familiarity with Wonkette's political bent should lead anyone to find Denby's analysis lacking.
posted by damehex at 9:25 AM on August 29, 2009


tl; nsci*

*need snarky comment instead
posted by pyramid termite at 9:36 AM on August 29, 2009


meh
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 10:14 AM on August 29, 2009


Interesting, damenhex. I'll concede that - taken out of the media context - the Wonkette article starts to look like the thing they were satirising. Looking at some more recent Wonkette material however, this trend continues. To quote:

"Ted was nearly killed in a plane crash in 1964! Nobody knows about this story. In fact, Kennedy-hating fucktard David Denby once wrote a whole anime-porn comic book about your Wonkette specifically because the very old idiot David Denby had no idea Ted Kennedy was nearly killed in a small plane crash in 1964."

"All the Kennedy kids are all rapey. Ted Kennedy got in trouble once, in 1980s, because of the Kennedy boys always being so rapey. Ted was not keeping an eye on them, because he was so drunk and fat. This is true!"

Which one could defend as being satirical of the media coverage of Ted Kennedy's death, but it's so scattergun, glib, smug and happy at it's own rebelliousness - so snarky - that it becomes hard to see what they are targetting. The Kennedys? Media coverage of the Kennedys? Or just everything in a shotgun approach? It makes for poor satire even when in context.

In summary: Wonkette are assholes, but without conviction.
posted by outlier at 10:22 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bellman, I see what you did there.
posted by Quietgal at 10:42 AM on August 29, 2009


The Guardian seems to have fewer copy editors on hand than the Huffington Post.

As for Wonkette -- oh, dear, they're horribly, teddibly snarky and more often than not despicable. But they're somehow the worst of the worst? That's giving them too much credit.

A statement like this doesn't seem to stand up to scrutiny: "Whatever its miseries, the country in the 30s and 40s was at peace with itself spiritually: we were all in the same boat." You don't have to look all too far to find evidence that will speak to just the opposite conclusion.
posted by blucevalo at 10:42 AM on August 29, 2009


I missed the previous mentions of Denby on MetaFilter because when I got to the end of this incredibly poor article I was amazed to see he had actually written a book on the subject. The fact he doesn't even seem to understand what snark is should have suggested that he was the wrong man for the job.
posted by ninebelow at 11:27 AM on August 29, 2009


Good article. Snark is such a slippery thing to get one's hands around (preferably around its fat neck). Denby needs to be thanked for attempting to kneecap this insidiousness caustic poison. It's a cowards stance, that allows them to come across as smart, witty, perceptive and un-naive. It's difficult to counter-act something that doesn't make any sense to begin with, the ugly gloss of something wit-like. But tha in reality stripped of its tone is whiney and bitchy and spoiled and a sign of ignorance at best and pure manipulativeness at worst. Also, the people who employ it in the public sphere tend to be full of themselves a bit: Rove, Paglia, Limbaugh, Beck, which betrays their own deep insecurity and need for some sort of ego-fluffing.

The idea seems to be to knowingly (you can almost hear their eyes rolling) piss on a thing, or a person and drag it through the gutter, not based to further anything, other than an agenda and demarcate with their opinion, like a dog pissing the corners of its back yard. And with a wink and nod, to hurt, score some cheap points, send a coded message to "the team."

With the subject of such to having no way to defend against it, for to do so would simply give it more significance.

Snark is a sucker punch and cheap shot, and it's bitchy and whiny all under the guise of wit, with an insidious inherent quality of pre-emptively inoculating itself against a response or counter-argument. IN other words, grade A mindfu*kery.
posted by Skygazer at 1:16 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I find it easier to disdain everyone and everything.

*sweeps cigarette butts and and crumpled Twinkie wrappers from lofty perch*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:16 PM on August 29, 2009


Christ, that's the last time I write a comment without reading the thread. I thought we were going to discuss snark people, not turn into a bunch of sniveling, runny nose a-holes who want to put down David Denby, who whether you like him or hate em has touched on something pretty worthwhile here in terms of the ever declining standards of civil discussion in this country. Fuck, you want to go off on someone go off on some ego bloated drama queen like Camille Paglia.

*Flips bird. Ball. Home.*
posted by Skygazer at 1:27 PM on August 29, 2009


knowingly

When did "knowing" come to mean the opposite of what it says?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:28 PM on August 29, 2009


As someone who's devoted a lot of energy to dismantling the Eurocentric anachronisms of the college curriculum...

This sounds interesting - what sort of stuff do you recommend to take its place? (I feel that I should say, given the subject of this thread, that this isn't snark)

Also, I read part of this snark article on an iPhone earlier, and two points:
- The Guardian needs to stop making articles six bitesize pages for mobile devices so that I don't keep having to wait for the load
- I thought the article was crap. What he was describing wasn't the refined, rapier snark with which I am familiar (though only as a mere observer), but some kind of blunt, douchey instrument.
posted by djgh at 2:31 PM on August 29, 2009


Christ, that's the last time I write a comment without reading the thread. I thought we were going to discuss snark people, not turn into a bunch of sniveling, runny nose a-holes who want to put down David Denby, who whether you like him or hate em has touched on something pretty worthwhile here in terms of the ever declining standards of civil discussion in this country. Fuck, you want to go off on someone go off on some ego bloated drama queen like Camille Paglia.

Christ, pontificate much? If you want a chorus to back you up in screaming at the kids to get off your lawn, you should probably look for it on another site.
posted by nasreddin at 5:45 PM on August 29, 2009


Fuck, you want to go off on someone go off on some ego bloated drama queen like Camille Paglia.

Was that snark?

*Flips bird. Ball. Home.*

That was snark.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:03 PM on August 29, 2009


*Flips bird. Ball. Home.*

That was snark.
posted by dirigibleman


I guess if snark can be self-depreciating, it was snark. See, I'm obviously "getting my knickers in twist" so I'm just taking it to the logical goofy conclusion. I'm joking at my own expense.

And as for you nesreddin: Look, I think snark needs to be identified, catalogued, castrated, dismantled and destroyed with extreme prejudice. I don't care about Denby's labored , rambling ax-grinding writing, or his politics or what books he recommends as necessary in the canon of world literature, although honestly I see nothing wrong with the classics he recommended in his book, most of them are essential texts absolutely but that's another subject, what I care about is that he's made an attempt at isolating and identifying what I agree with his is a insidious poison that is sullying real thought or compassion or understanding of one another. I'm not sure if he's identifying it correctly, I'm not even sure if I'm identifying it correctly, but the effort should be made and that in itself is admirable about DD.

Now, why don't you take a shot at defining what snark is Mr. "Go pontificate somewhere else," or ....get the fuck off my lawn, punk. *

*Not snark.
posted by Skygazer at 7:37 PM on August 29, 2009


Am I a bad person for finding the Palin snark funny?
posted by dopeypanda at 8:55 PM on August 29, 2009


I don't care about Denby's labored , rambling ax-grinding writing, or his politics or what books he recommends...

Isn't all of that his idea of what good writing should be though? An attempt to straight out browbeat your reader, (almost typed opposition, but I suspect that's my bias) with so much verbiage that they submit to your stunningly original ideas? Snark isn't glib, and it isn't easy, which is why so many do it so poorly. If people want to argue that bad snark makes for poor reading, well then I'll just leave them to it. If they want to argue that all snark does is dumb down the culture of literature and prevents people from thinking "real thoughts", then frankly I think we need to argue. That might be the problem though.

Writing isn't used the way it was before the advent of the internet. We have real disagreements, but we have to have them through a medium that leaves us unable to communicate our feelings in a visceral fashion. I can tell you that I think Denby is wrong, I can even tell you in explicit detail that I think he is incorrect in the same way and for much the same reason as pre-Copernican universal theories, but you can't see my lips curl, my teeth flash, or hear any sort of passion in my voice. So I'm left with text. Which doesn't do passion a tenth as good as physicality.

So a definition of snark. Snark is that which if you said it to someone they would understand you were in fact making a statement of passion about the subject you were talking about. In person snark can be loving, damning, or just a means of sharing a moment with a friend/enemy. It wouldn't be something you'd share with a stranger. Only people who were intimate with how you functioned in conversation would know whether that deadpanned joke was a joke.
posted by Peztopiary at 3:53 AM on August 30, 2009


what I care about is that he's made an attempt at isolating and identifying what I agree with his is a insidious poison that is sullying real thought or compassion or understanding of one another. I'm not sure if he's identifying it correctly, I'm not even sure if I'm identifying it correctly, but the effort should be made and that in itself is admirable about DD.

Speaking for myself, the problem I have with his article is he spends a great deal of time and energy railing against something that isn't really a problem. There's a time and place for everything. Sometimes things should be casually and sarcastically dismissed. Take Glenn Beck - do we engage this idiot, and write up a 5000-word Denby-esque point-by-point critique of what's wrong with this guy? Isn't that a waste of energy that just feeds into his self-importance? Yes, it is. So we snark him instead. Imagine a world where every idiotic quote, person or incident had to be confronted with the sort of tl;dr serious business Denby is touting. What a boring, colorless world - not to mention a troll's paradise.

Snark can be abused, sure. But so can analysis, criticism, sarcasm, humor and drama. Snark is not in and of itself a problem, as much as Denby would like to believe it is. And he really needs to lighten the hell up.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:38 AM on August 30, 2009


I may be confusing "snark" with plain old cruelty. In my mind, snark is Rush limbaugh making fun of Michael Fox by imitating his spastic manner. Or racist sentiment spouted by people like Beck and the birthers with a wink wink, as political free speech and it's free speech but shouldn't be made into a noble or patriotic thing. At least the white supremicists have the guts to admit they're unrepentant bigots.

A dry sense of humor is great and perhaps Denby doesn't get the humor behind wonkette eviscerating Chelsea Clinton, neither do I unless it was a parody. You may as well go kick a puppy in th face, if you want to display comical amounts of overkill.

Marisa and peztopiary, those are very generous definitions, but to me what you guys describe is more humor or wit.
posted by Skygazer at 9:29 AM on August 30, 2009


I think there's a discrepancy in definitions, then. To my mind, "snark" is being snidefully, sarcastically dismissive. And I think there's a time and place for it. Not everything warrants a treatise in response; in fact, some things should be mocked with the verbal equivalent of a hand wave.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:32 AM on August 30, 2009


Skygazer, did you read the Wonkette response re Chelsea? In context it was a pretty clear attack on the media who were, at the time, united in their shock that a 28 year old educated IIRC at Oxford might actually be able to read from a teleprompter. Such pathetic campaign analysis on the part of the "serious" media calls for a snarky response. I'm all for serious discussion, but it's hard to reason with an idiot, especially one who affects seriousness.
posted by maledictory at 4:07 PM on August 30, 2009


I guess humor or wit is sort of what I think snark is. It's meant to be funny. If it's hurtful, well that's sort of a side effect, but the humor comes before the hurt. Rush Limbaugh isn't being snarky when he makes fun of Michael J. Fox. I don't know what it is he is being exactly, but it isn't an attempt at being witty. There isn't any quality of cleverness about it. It's the equivalent of pointing and laughing at a dude in a wheelchair. Which is not snark.

The definition of snark is sort of my problem with Denby. He defines snark to mean this completely different thing than I think it means, then he goes and finds examples that even under his definition are marginal cases. He just gets to assert things as examples of snark that feel like they aren't. Of course, since I'll never get to talk to the man, and indeed am expected to pay for the privilege of engaging in a one sided dialogue with him, (bought the book, was consistently annoyed by it, donated it), I can't really disagree with him in a public forum, which means his definition of snark comes to dominate the conversation.
posted by Peztopiary at 4:27 PM on August 30, 2009


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